The Old Doom Bar | Postcards From the Edge – 20

It's time to down newspapers and get another round in with Bruce Abrahams. Spring might look like it's on its way but don't let the warm weather fool you into thinking it'll be plain sailing. This week the boys are shaking their heads over Brexit, Rotherham, the Adam Johnson Trial and Tony Blackburn.

There has been something of a mood swing in The Old Doom Bar this past week or two. It was briefly dry, sunny even and lambing started. Although this brings its own stresses – mild winters cause higher fatalities in ewes. Nor are we helped by a nasty strain of flu that seems to linger on in many of us regulars. Naturally we blame children and city folk for the ongoing lurgee.

Unsurprisingly the Brexit issue as it has been so successfully branded, was something of a focus. Long a Lib-Dem area the last election turned our region blue with UKIP undertones. We have a comprehensive mistrust of ‘the authorities’ and ‘up-country’ politicians in general so in or out was more or less about who might make the least shambles of things.We confined our  jeremiads to the issues of Albanian and Romanian criminals readily able to traffic in drugs, illegal migrants of all sorts and sex trade victims.

Our discussion proceeded thus: given the quantity of marijuana grown locally, drug control is just something the police have to get on with; we need daffodil and cauliflower pickers and none of the local youths seem to think that good honest work is worth bothering with; the closest place where sex trafficking might be a problem is Plymouth, although none of us have been for years. Brexit, schmexit.

But we did get a bit exercised about a string of media boosted events that ran from a footballer grooming trial to the conclusions of the Rotherham abuse drama. Inevitably, blame was widely attached – to the perpetrators, the parents and the State in its local and national guises. Given the prevalence of our own local young females who seem to ‘fall pregnant’ in an inconvenient way we had a limited sympathy with the footballer. However reprehensible his conduct no one believed the girl involved was, other than in a narrow legal sense, a child. She was a ‘minor’ although post-puberty. Our off-duty special police constable (former marine, two Afghan tours) was adamant about the impossibility of verifying the age of drunk girls in the local town. He welcomed the chance of a ruck with male ‘revellers’ but really disliked the abuse and violence offered him by young women if only because his responses had to be more muted than they would with a male troublemaker.

This led to our senior military member (Colonel, Korea, bewildered about modern mores), to ask when a girl became a woman. As we had discussed before, there was a big difference between the perpetrators and victims of paedophilia, serial abuse à la Rotherham and teenage groupies whose naivety had been exploited. This distinction seemed too often lost on the media and other moralists including the BBC who in the same week managed to fire Tony Blackburn (for annoying Witchfinder General Dame Janet Smith by disagreeing with her) and broadcast a very bad sitcom about advertising (Reluctant Persuaders Radio4 11.30 Wednesday) containing a joke about tarts dressed up as schoolgirls.

Blackburn received a lot of sympathy. Those of us who heard him on Broadcasting House (28 February BBC4) thought he came across well. As with Paul Gambaccini – or less fortunately since Tony B was fired – not only were the allegations clearly fantastic, but in Tony’s case he had been shot for simply challenging the corporate ‘evidence’.

So we have tended to a dour view of what the Spring may bring. The weather and the fortunes of agriculture are to be endured or enjoyed. More disagreeable are the incursions and interventions and as we say here, ‘hinderments’ brought to us by the outside and metropolitan world.

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